LIFT Takes to the Stage to Eliminate Illiteracy

Participation in The Tempest Gives Students Confidence Through Experience

DALLAS (March 1, 2017) – This Friday marks the unveiling of the groundbreaking community engagement and participatory theater project, Public Works Dallas, that is designed to deliberately blur the line between professional artists and Dallas community members. Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) – a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance lives and strengthen communities by teaching more adults to read – is one of five Dallas community organizations that have participated in workshops throughout the year.

The project, which includes Jubilee Park and Community Center, Vickery Meadow Learning Center, Bachman Lake Together and City of Dallas Park and Recreation, culminates in the Public Works Dallas participatory musical theater production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, directed by Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the Dallas Arts District.

LIFT President and CEO Lisa Hembry, one of 13 staff, board of directors, volunteer and student participants in the community ensemble, said, “Our students have been given the opportunity to overcome their struggles with literacy by bringing literature to life on stage.”

“Involvement in this play has exposed members of our LIFT team to a body of literature they may not have known about. Some of our students have never heard of Shakespeare nor ever participated in the making of a musical. This additional dimension of learning to navigate the printed word is an amazing experience and honor.”

LIFT Chief Development Officer Dan Thompson revealed how each student’s involvement has come in a dynamic form. “This is one more practical experience for our students to learn. From reading a script or lyric sheet to processing verbal and printed direction, each of us is expected to function within a theater world. This means being on time, reading signs to ensure safety and following backstage directions.”

“Dallas Theater Center and Public Works Dallas has fostered an environment for each and every person to work together with a new level of confidence. This is the confidence we hope empowers our students in everyday life as they learn to read throughout adulthood.”

The themes of The Tempest offer a parallel to the challenges LIFT students face. The Tempest is set on a remote island. People who struggle with literacy can feel isolated from their peers, alone in their struggle, because they lack in an area where many do not. Prospero, the powerful magician, manipulates his enemies by creating a tempest. Those who are illiterate may try to avoid shame and escape rejection by creating the illusion that they are able to read. Prospero and Miranda teach Caliban their religion and language. Learning the language of where one resides is necessary to survive.

Illiteracy is a critical issue. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is the sixth largest economy in the nation. Corporate and public policy conversations focus on the lack of a work-ready labor force, the high number of unfilled middle-skill jobs and the rapidly increasing concentration of poverty in the region. Both workforce and poverty gaps tie directly to adult low literacy. By 2030, it is estimated that one in three adults, more than one million Dallas County residents, will be functionally illiterate.

LIFT offers Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABLE), High School Equivalency Preparation (GED) and English Language Acquisition (ESL) courses. LIFT’s model utilizes trained and dedicated volunteers to provide classroom instruction, supplemented with one-to-one tutoring and self-paced study.

LIFT Dallas community participants in The Tempest include:

Lisa Hembry – President/CEO

Dan Thompson – Chief Development Officer

Felisha Blanton – Student

Siera Mitchell – Student

Joy Reemstma – Program Coordinator

Damon Richardson – Student

Caryn Steine – Student

Doris Black Hubbard – Volunteer Coordinator

Lincoln Hogg – Student

Bradley Hall – Student

Martha Heimberg – Volunteer

Melanie Ferguson – Board of Directors

Julie Sheeder – Volunteer


Performances of The Tempest will be held at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater at the AT&T Performing Arts Center March 3-5. Stand-by tickets may be available. Click here to get more information.


About LIFT

Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) is a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance lives and strengthen communities by teaching more adults to read. LIFT desires to Bend the Trend and stop escalating illiteracy in Dallas by offering classes in Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABLE), High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE/GED) and English Language Acquisition (ELA/ESL). For more information about LIFT, visit their website at

Media Contact

Lisa Hembry

O: 214.824.2000

New Passing Score for the GED

July 2015, LIFT’s VP of Strategic Partnerships, Amber Sims, wrote an article about the difficulty of the new GED test that was published in the Washington Post. Her goal was to advocate on behalf of students who are working hard to open new doors for themselves. The new GED test includes a 25 WPM typing requirement as well as a strong application of advanced algebraic concepts. Even those with highly developed reading, writing and math skills struggle to pass this new test which has crossed the threshold of assessing basic skills into a place of creating unnecessary barriers.
The President of GED personally responded to Amber’s article defending the difficulty of the test and she responded, “Our students have been ignored for so long and we owe it to them and our community to push back.”
There are many people and organizations across Texas and the US who demanded this change. We are thrilled to share that on January 26, 2016, GED has decided to “recalibrate” aka lower the minimum test score from 150 to 145.
It’s five points, yet for many LIFT students it means they could have passed this test long ago and it means they can move to the next level in their lives. ‪#‎welift‬ ‪#‎speakupwriteup‬…/01/26/new-passing-score-ged

U.S. House speaker visits anti-poverty program in Dallas hosted by LIFT VP of Strategic Partnerships

“At LIFT we teach adults how to read. Because, what can you do if you can’t read? Did you know that more than 950,000 people in the Dallas – Ft. Worth area do not have a high school diploma or GED? This minimum credential can open the door to higher wages and allow someone to gain a foothold on the pathway out of poverty.”

Across the country, the percentage of people living in poverty is rapidly growing. Dallas has one of the highest poverty rates of any major city in the U.S. and it is catching the attention of elected officials on all sides of every aisle, from the local to the federal level.

Monday, LIFT’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Amber Sims, emceed the launch event of a new Dallas-based poverty elimination program “Urban Specialists” which empowers people to help youth and adults in their own communities take their first steps out of poverty. Guests included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Mayor Mike Rawlings, local elected officials including Jennifer Staubach Gates and Erik Wilson as well as Dallas legend Deion Sanders.